Macbeth Symbolism Essay Research Paper With its

Macbeth Symbolism Essay, Research Paper

With its eye-opening plot and interesting cast of characters, William

Shakespeare?s play, Macbeth is one of the greatest works one could ever read.

But, above all, the aspect of the play is most impressive and overwhelming with

imagery and symbolism that Shakespeare so brilliantly uses. Throughout the play

, the author depicts various types of imagery and symbolism instances that ,

eventually , lead to the downfall of the main character , Macbeth. Instances of

imagery and symbolism are seen throughout the play. Imagery and symbolism are

unavoidable features in William Shakespeare?s Macbeth. One of the most

prominent symbolic factors in the play is the presence of blood. It has been

noted that the presence of blood ?increases the feelings or fear , horror ,

and pain? (Spurgeon , Pg. 20). From the appearance of the bloody sergeant in

the second scene of the to the very last scene , there is a continued vision of

blood all throughout the play. The imagery of blood seems to affect almost all

the characters in the play. It affects Lady Macbeth in the scene in which she is

found sleepwalking talking to herself after the murders of Duncan and Banquo :

?Here?s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not

sweeten this little hand.? [V. i. 50-1] Also , the blood imagery is present in

the ?weird sisters? , or witches. Most evidently , it is present in act four

, scene one , when Macbeth visits the witches to seek their insight and his

fortune for the future. He is shown three apparitions , one of which is a bloody

child that commands him to ?Be bloody , bold and resolute : laugh to

scorn?? [IV. i. 79] Although blood imagery deals with almost all the

characters of the play , no where is it more profound than with the protagonist

himself , Macbeth. In the very beginning of the play , it is reported by the

sergeant that Macbeth and Banquo are ?[bathing] in reeking wounds.? [I. ii.

42] Again , blood is found haunting Macbeth in act two , scene one of the play ,

in which a visionary dagger is stained with ?gouts of blood.? In the same

act and scene , after the murder Duncan , Macbeth cries declares that nothing ,

even ?great Neptune?s oceans? , will be able to cleanse the blood that

stains his hand : ?Will all great Neptune?s ocean wash this blood clean from

my hand? No , this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine ,

making the green one red.? [II. ii. 58-60] Next , the image of blood is

induced when Macbeth calls upon the ?bloody and invisible hand? of night to

help the murderers he has hired carry out their assassination of Banquo and his

son , Fleance. Then , Macbeth realizes that ?blood will have blood? and that

his murderous plots will all come to and end with his death. Finally , at the

end of the banquet scene , Macbeth confesses that he is ?in blood , stepp?d

in so far that , should [he] wade no more , returning [would be] as tedious as

to go o?er.? [III. iv. 136-7] Through all these instances of blood symbolism

and imagery , it is obvious that ?Macbeth is about blood.? (Muir , Pg. 271 )

Yet another form of symbolism used in the play is that of unnaturalness.

Throughout the work , it is used in the constant referral to Macbeth?s crime

of murder and emphasizes the fact it is not natural and , in turn , is a

?convulsion of nature.? (Spurgeon , Pg. 20) Although powerful , the idea of

unnaturalness occurs mostly in one part of the play , immediately before and

after the murder of Duncan. Macbeth , obviously bothered by the act that he had

just committed , states how Duncan?s wounds ?look?d like a breach in

nature for ruin?s wasteful entrance.? [II. iii. 118] Then , Macbeth

continues on by saying that he had ?murdered sleep? , another unnatural

occurrence, ?I heard a voice cry , ?Sleep no more! Macbeth does murther

sleep?Glamis hath murder?d sleep , and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more.

Macbeth shall sleep no more.?? [II. ii. 26-36] Next , the unnatural events

of the night continue when Macduff and Lenox , Duncan?s sons , tell Macbeth of

the ?strange events? of the night, ?The night has been unruly. Where we

lay , our chimneys were blown down , and , as they say , lamentings heard i?

the air , strange screams of death?and some say the earth was feverous and did

shake.? [II. iii. 69-76] Also, Rodd and the Old Man describe unnatural events

that occurred on the night of Duncan?s murder. The Old Man claims to seeing a

?falcon towering in her pride of place? , being ?hawk?d at and killed?

by a mousing owl.? In addition , Ross states how Duncan?s horses ?turn?d

wild in nature , broke their stalls , [and] flung out? , all the time

?contending ?gainst obedience.? Finally , an unnatural act occurs in Lady

Macbeth?s sleepwalking scene. Throughout the scene , the very act of Lady

Macbeth sleepwalking is seen as a ?perturbation in nature? [V. i. 10] as the

doctor and the gentlewoman observe her. It is in this scene that the doctor

begins his suspicions about what is bothering Lady Macbeth and then states ,

?Foul whisperings are abroad. Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles ;

infected minds to their pillows will discharge their secrets.? [V. i. 65-8]

Clothes imagery is another type of symbolism used constantly throughout the

play. From the beginning to the end , there are instances of clothes imagery

scattered throughout the play. Spurgeon states that clothes imagery is so

important because ?the crucial point of the comparison lies not in the

smallness of the man and the largeness of the robes , but rather in the fact

that these are not his garments.? Spurgeon also states that ?the oldest

symbol for the hypocrite is that of the man who cloaks his true nature under a

disguise.? These are two very important ideas to consider when reviewing the

clothes imagery in Macbeth. The first instance of clothes imagery occurs in the

fist act , when Ross and Angus hail Macbeth as the Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth ,

aware that the Thane lives , states , ?The Thane of Cawdor lives. Why do you

dress me in borrow?d robes?? [I. iii. 108] Next , in the same scene , Banquo

aware of Macbeth?s ?promotion? and the witches? prophesies , states ,

?New honors come upon him , Like our strange garments , cleave not to their

mold but with the aid of use.? [I. iii. 144] Another occurrence of clothes

imagery was when Macbeth expresses doubt to Lady Macbeth about carrying out the

murder of Duncan. She reprimands the hesitation and urges him to carry on ,

?Was the hope drunk wherein you dress?d yourself??Art thou afeared to be

the same in thine own act and valor as thou art in desire??? [I. vii. 35-7]

Then , in the midst of events leading to Macbeth?s downfall , Caithness notes

the uneasiness that Macbeth is in , knowing his end is near: ?He cannot buckle

his distempered cause within the belt of rule.? [V. ii. 15] Finally , just as

Angus and his forces are about to storm the castle Dunsinane , Angus states how

Macbeth?s title is about to be taken from him and how he feels ?his title

hang loose about him , like a giant?s robe upon a dwarfish thief.? [V. ii.

20] One of the most crucial points of symbolism and imagery is that of darkness.

The use of darkness ?runs parallel to the idea that the deeds or Macbeth (and

in some cases Lady Macbeth) are too terrible for human eyes to look at.?

(Spurgeon , Pg. 17) It also works off of the notion that good equals light and ,

conversely , darkness is synonymous with evil. The first time darkness is

addressed is in act one , scene four when Macbeth realizes that Malcolm ,

recently given the title Prince of Cumberland , is an obstacle in his desired

path to eventually becoming king , ?The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step

on which I must fall down , or else o?erleap , for in my way it lies. Stars ,

hide your fires ; let not light see my black and deep Desires?? [I. iv.

50-3] Next , Lady Macbeth calls upon darkness in the next scene in which she

asks for the power to carry out the deed she knows must be done in order for her

husband to become king , ?Come thick night and pall thee in the dunnest smoke

of hell that my keen knife see not the wound it makes nor heaven peep through

the blanket of the dark to cry , Hold , Hold!? [I. v. 51-5] Finally , an

instance in which the darkness is referred to is when Ross reports to the Old

Man of how , although it is daytime , the sun refuses to show. This quote , most

likely referring to a solar eclipse , is the climatic occurrence of all the

unearthly events that have been occurring , ??By the clock ?tis day , and

yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp. Is?t night?s predominance , or

the day?s shame , that darkness does the face of earth entomb , when living

light should kiss it?? [II. iv. 7-11] It is evident that throughout the play

Macbeth , by William Shakespeare , the many instances of imagery and symbolism

play a great role in the outcome of the play. Through the blood imagery , it is

made clear to the audience the mental consequences taking their toll on the

protagonist and his wife. Also , through the clothes imagery , it is clear to

see how Macbeth?s title was really never his and how his ?borrow?d

robes? do not fit. Next , the darkness serves as a tool to symbolize the

terribleness of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?s actions and how the dark is the

only thing they can use to try and hide themselves from what they have done.

Finally , in the unnatural events of the play , it is made clear to the audience

that Macbeth?s chosen path of murder is one that plenty of men will venture ,

but not many will emerge to the other end.


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